This is the third post in our college-planning series. Check out the previous posts—about choosing a major and saving for your college expenses—if you haven’t read them already. And come back next week for the last post in this series.
Got your resources all lined up? The next step for getting your college financial plan laid out is to tally up the total for the program you choose. It goes without saying that majors differ, and you want to move forward without surprises midstream.
Tuition and Fees
A list of tuition and fees per semester or per year appears on most college websites. Record the total tuition and fees for one year, anticipating a slight increase each year following initial enrollment. Take particular note of fees attached to specific programs. This could involve anything from art supplies to music studio rental, the cost of jet fuel (if you’re an aviation major), tutoring, and so on. And don’t forget charges for processing your reservation or taking exams.
Living Quarters—On Campus or Off?
The room-and-board cost listed on the college’s website should cover your living quarters and on-campus meals. Some colleges require freshmen to live on campus their first year. Though convenient, this will definitely impact your total. Estimate the cost of off-campus housing with rental fees, utilities, food, furnishings, housekeeping necessities, and possibly renter’s insurance to see if it will really save you money in the end.
The online option: Many schools offer a wide variety of online courses. This can mean big savings in terms of living expenses. While not possible for all majors and possibly not desirable for every semester of your college experience, distance learning could be a money-saving option for some courses.
Books and Supplies
You will probably want to include an average of at least $350 per semester for textbooks in your cost tally and possibly another $100 for supplies. Once you register for classes and have your book list, you can begin bargain-hunting. With minimal networking effort, you can sniff out used textbooks and sell books you’ve already used. Or check out places like Half.com (an eBay site). If you enter the ISBN of a textbook on DealOz.com, for example, it will search the main competing websites for the lowest prices on that specific book. Renting books is also a great option for books you don’t want to keep.
You’ll find almost anything you study is going to require at least a few specialized tools—anything from tech devices to art supplies and from poster board to special presentation binders—depending on the major, class, and teacher. It all adds up. So you will want to allow for these in your general expenses.
All That Other Stuff
Perhaps the most dangerous budget-buster is the “catch-all” category that expands to accommodate what doesn’t quite fit in other categories. This could include your cell phone bill, campus vehicle registration, auto insurance, gas, car repairs, school-related trips (e.g., debate club, sports teams, orchestra tour), laundry, recreation, greeting cards and gifts, organizing tools and other dorm room furnishings, coffee and snacks, clothes, shoes, and the list goes on! While you may not want to allot this category a huge amount, make sure to list all anticipated costs that aren’t included in your housing category—like cell phone and vehicle registration. Also, don’t forget big-ticket items such as travel expenses for Christmas break.
The Sum Total
Now comes the reckoning! Add up all the figures in each list, and find the difference between your resources (what you added up in the previous post) and your costs. You should now have a good idea of how much one year in college will cost. You can even multiply your cost (before subtracting your resources) by four and have the approximate total for your bachelor’s degree.
Are you surprised? View this information as a catalyst to seek the Lord for His provision. Don’t be discouraged! God provides where He leads. In His will, you will see His gracious hand working out the details you have put on paper.
How have you planned for college expenses?